AEAs Empower Teachers through Professional Development
One of the best known ways to affect student performance is through teacher professional development. The AEAs in Iowa have always been known for delivering quality professional learning for teachers. However, due to shrinking budgets, the traditional methods of delivery – pull-out sessions for teachers with substitutes covering for them – is becoming increasingly rare and difficult for schools to do. Iowa’s AEAs are working with districts to provide timely, relevant and quality learning for teachers so that student performance can continue to improve.
“Professional development has changed a lot within even the past 10 years,” said Sharon Kurns, Director of Professional Learning and Leadership at Heartland AEA. “Instead of merely holding a workshop and hoping that participants have learned the content, ongoing support and opportunities for collaborative learning are provided.”
Schools across Iowa enlist the help of the AEAs to provide on-site professional learning opportunities. AEA consultants travel to the school building to provide different levels of support including, but not limited to: training on researched-based instructional practices, effective instruction to implement the Iowa Core, training on how new technologies can be used to benefit the classroom and facilitation on the district’s learning goals. Consultants also provide follow-up and on-going support to the school and its teachers in an area that the school has identified as a need. Teachers can earn graduate degree hours when taking many of these classes.
“It is very important to provide teachers with the flexibility to take graduate-level courses closer to their districts and at a reasonable cost,” Kurns said, “Professional development is one of the most essential services provided to teachers and educators by the AEAs.”
Online Learning Coming from AEAs
In light of the need to bring advanced degree studies and professional development closer to home for teachers, the AEAs are currently developing online learning programs, which will be offered statewide for all educators. The courses will be taught by highly regarded professionals and can be taken at times convenient for the teachers without the need to be gone from their classrooms. More information about this exciting new approach to providing professional learning to Iowa teachers will be coming soon from your AEA.
In the meantime, the AEAs continue to provide strong leadership in developing professional growth related to the Iowa Core. For example, this summer Heartland AEA provided a three-day institute that focused on characteristics of effective instruction for the Iowa Core. The event was a collaborative forum in which educators met to discuss, learn about and explore a focused area of content.
“Over 400 educators from across Central Iowa came to deepen their understanding about the Iowa Core and gain knowledge on types of instruction that consistently engages students,” Kurns said, “Participants had the opportunity to learn through collaborative team activities, guest presenters, videos and district discussions and planning sessions all focused on the characteristics of effective instruction.” Large-scale forums, institutes and workshops, like the Iowa Core Institute held this summer, help AEAs communicate a common message and level of understanding to a broad audience. They also allow a forum to provide rich and meaningful collaboration for educators to learn, reflect and focus on important issues and practices that will increase student achievement.
AEAs have consistently maintained a strong partnership with the Board of Educational Examiners, and AEAs are approved to offer higher-level credit courses. These courses are often taught through partnerships with local universities and colleges and provide graduate-credit classes for teachers who wish to attain advanced degrees. This helps teachers fulfill the requirements of their Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) and fulfills certain requirements on their districts’ Comprehensive School Improvement Plans.
Relevant, timely and quality professional development courses offered through the AEAs are a cornerstone of excellence in Iowa’s educational system. For nearly two generations, the AEAs have empowered thousands of Iowa educators through professional development to meet on-going, evolving needs within the education system.